SPOKANE, Washington – The Spokane Empire (6-2, 5-1) come back home this Sunday, April 30th to face the visiting Salt Lake Screaming Eagles (1-7, 1-6) in Week 11 of the 2017 Indoor Football League regular season at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena with a 4:00 pm PST kickoff.
These two teams will meet for the third time this season. The Empire took both previous games by a score of 41-35 at Salt Lake, and 53-36 in Spokane. In each contest, a member of the Empire took home IFL Player of the Week honors, with running back Trevor Kennedy winning in Week 4, and defensive back John Hardy-Tuliau in Week 6.
The Empire will be attempting to make this the second year in a row that they defeat a team at least three times in the same season. Spokane achieved the feat last year against the Tri-Cities Fever, ultimately going 4-0 against their then rival.
Salt Lake saw their only win of the year back in Week 2 with an overtime victory against the Colorado Crush. Since then, the Screaming Eagles have lost six straight, with their most recent loss being last Saturday at Nebraska, 30-49. An interesting note, the Screaming Eagles only have nine players still active from their inaugural 25 man roster from Week 1 versus the Danger.
Spokane comes off of a hard fought win against an old AFL foe in the Arizona Rattlers thanks in part to a stellar performance from quarterback Charles Dowdell. The signal caller threw for 204 yards and six touchdowns down in the desert, and looks to translate those numbers against a league best passing defense with Salt Lake yielding only 121.4 passing yards per game.
As far as quarterback pressure goes, Salt Lake has recorded nine interceptions on the year, but only five sacks all season long. As far as run defense, consider it their kryptonite. The Screaming Eagles go from best to worst, allowing 105.8 rushing yards per game.
Trevor Kennedy has a chance to once again punish Salt Lake, with his best performance of the year coming from inside the Maverik Center in Week 4. In his aforementioned 'PotW' performance, Kennedy ran for 101 yards off of 13 carries, scoring three touchdowns. Earlier this week, more honors came in for the back as he was awarded Special Teams Player of the Week for his impressive kickoff return against Arizona.
But there's a bright spot for the Screaming Eagles in quarterback Verlon Reed. The playmaker is top five in both passing and rushing, with an average of 176.5 passing yards per game, and 46.1 rushing yards per game. Both numbers put him in second place for both categories. His 39 total touchdowns is also good for second in the league.
Don Unamba is the standout for the SLC defense, leading the team with 40 total tackles and four interceptions on the year, two of those coming against Dowdell in Week 4. Unamba was absent from last week's game against the Nebraska Danger, but should be good to go this Sunday.
For Spokane, the defense looks to assert their dominance again with Andrew Jackson at the helm. He along with Hardy-Tuliau had team leading eight tackles each against Arizona last week, with Jackson recording the only sack of the game, and Hardy-Tuliau making the lone interception.
The wild card for both teams however could end up being penalties. Salt Lake is the most penalized team in the league, averaging close to 11 flags per game. Spokane isn't too far behind with 10 penalties per game average. Week 4 was a heavily penalized contest between the two, with both teams causing 14 fouls each. With over a month for both squads to become more disciplined, any flag that is thrown could prove to be more costly than any other.
Sunday's game will broadcast live on the IFL's YouTube Channel and also available on 700 ESPN and 105.3 FM radio in Spokane with Larry Weir on the call.